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Romney, in Chicago Tuesday, hits Obama on economy, welfare


Number of poor:

Illinois: 1.73 million

U.S.: 46.2 million

Poverty rate:

Illinois: 13.8 percent

U.S.: 15.3 percent

Number of poor children:

Illinois: 600,000

U.S.: 15.7 million

Number of unemployed:

Illinois: 572,200

U.S.: 12.8 million

Unemployment rate:

Illinois 8.7 percent

U.S.: 8.3 percent

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program recipients — 2011 annual average:

Illinois: 88,491

U.S.: 4.36 million

Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program recipients:

Illinois: 1.87 million

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Labor Department, Illinois Department of Employment Security, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Illinois Department of Human Services

Sweet blog: Romney opens new front, attacks Obama on welfare
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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:13AM

As he brought his campaign to President Barack Obama’s home state Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney debuted a new line of attack during a stop in the northwest suburbs, accusing the White House of trying to reverse reforms in the welfare system.

Shortly after releasing a new campaign TV ad on the topic, Romney used a speech in Elk Grove Village to allege that the Obama administration was “taking the work requirement out of welfare.”

“If I’m president, I will put work back in welfare,” Romney told about 150 supporters at a campaign event at the Acme Industries manufacturing facility. “We must include more work in welfare . . . We will end a culture of dependency.”

The Obama administration announced last month that it would consider requests from states to issue waivers from federal work requirement to qualify for welfare. Romney said the move would unravel bipartisan welfare reforms made under President Bill Clinton.

But in Washington, Obama aides struck back swiftly, with White House press secretary Jay Carney describing Romney’s attacks as an “utter misrepresentation of the president’s policy.” Under the new policy, Carney said, states that are allowed to grant waivers must commit to moving 20 percent more welfare recipients into the ranks of the employed.

“Any request from any state that undercuts the work requirement in welfare reform will be rejected,” Carney said.

And an Obama campaign spokeswoman alleged that as Massachusetts governor Romney had petitioned the federal government for waivers “that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period.”

The dispute over welfare flared on a day when Romney also appeared at two downtown fundraisers that netted more than $2 million in donations, according to his Illinois campaign chairman, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

Before talking politics in Elk Grove Village, Romney requested a moment of silence for the victims of the Sikh temple attack on Sunday in Wisconsin. He said the attack was motivated by racial and religious hatred.

“The Sikh religion and the Sikh people are such peaceful and loving individuals,” he said.

Then, in two speeches to local supporters, Romney focused almost entirely on blaming Obama for the nation’s weak economy. During the 25-minute appearance at the Acme factory, Romney noted that median income has dropped but the cost of health care, gas and food have risen since Obama took office.

“The American middle class is struggling under this president,” Romney said.

Talking to about 60 executives from the hospitality industry at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Chicago, the GOP presidential hopeful said Obama has shown “a lack of understanding about how America’s economy works.” Administration policies have discouraged entrepreneurs from hiring, he told the business leaders who paid between $5,000 and $50,000 to mingle with the candidate and hear his 14-minute talk.

Romney said the United States “is not a collective, where we all work in a kibbutz, or we all work in some little entity. Instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has

happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”

Romney said Obama policies such as health-care reform and decisions of the National Labor Relations Board were to blame for “the longest, most painful recovery from a recession in American history.”

“People have pulled back from risk taking and starting enterprises at the very time we needed them to step forward,” he said.

The event at Maggiano’s and a fundraiser earlier in the day at Harry Caray’s restaurant showed that the Romney campaign is “doing abundantly well raising money here in this state,” Rutherford said.

Tuesday’s haul means that Romney has raised more in Illinois than the 2008 GOP nominee John McCain received from the state’s donors, the Sun-Times reported Tuesday. And Rutherford said Romney would come to Chicago again soon.

Both fundraising events Tuesday relied on help from prominent widows.

The candidate was introduced to the audience at Maggiano’s by Toni Brinker, the widow of Norman Brinker ­— the Dallas-based company that owns the Maggiano’s and Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurant chains. Toni Brinker, who was Norman Brinker’s fourth wife, lauded Romney as an excellent leader with “strong family values.”

After the fundraiser at Harry Caray’s, which was closed to media, Romney posed briefly for a photo opportunity with a bust of the late baseball broadcaster and Caray’s widow, Dutchie.

“Hey, how’s Theo Epstein doing for you?” Romney asked Dutchie Caray, referring to the new Cubs general manager who was recruited from Romney’s hometown Boston Red Sox.

Romney and Dutchie Caray chatted for about a minute as they looked at a memorabilia display case that includes Harry Caray’s oversized, thick-lensed glasses and the infamous foul ball that a Cub fan attempted to catch during the 2003 National League playoffs.

“There are the glasses, the famous glasses,” Romney told Dutchie Caray. “Your husband -- what a guy. I sure miss him.”

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